Somehow a snowball fight broke out in mid-summer between the Yankees and Mets this week over trades not made, and after speaking with people from both organizations, I believe the Yankees occupy the higher ground in this intra-city squabble.
It’s not so much about the Jay Bruce trade to the Indians. Privately the Yankees believe they were offering a better prospect than Ryder Ryan, the Class A pitcher in the trade, but even if they’re right, which the Mets dispute, it’s not as if they were offering a blue-chipper as part of their proposed two-player package.
So I’ve got no issue with the Mets deciding not to trade with their crosstown rivals, even if the decision was primarily based on the Indians being willing to take on all $3.7 million of Bruce’s remaining salary.
If only they’d been willing to admit as much.
Instead Sandy Alderson said the move was simply about creating room for young players, specifically Dom Smith, and not money. Well, let’s face it, Alderson’s word on such matters is harder to take at face value after he recently admitted he was fibbing about Tim Tebow last year when he defiantly insisted that signing him was “strictly a baseball decision.”
The Mets could have simply defended the Bruce trade as part of a plan to re-invest in next year’s team with the savings on their recent trades and some $65 million that will be coming off the payroll in expired contracts.
Indeed, that better be their plan, but more on that in a minute.
What the Mets had no business doing was putting the word out, via an anonymous source, that the Yankees had nixed a deal for Neil Walker at the July 31st deadline.
Theoretically it fell through for medical reasons, though the published report on the subject said Mets’ people believed the Yankees used that as an excuse because they were in the process of acquiring Sonny Gray and didn’t want to take on any more payroll.
Maybe some Mets person felt the need to fire back at all the talk about being afraid to deal with the Yankees. On Thursday in Philadelphia, in fact, without naming names Alderson said publicly that he nearly made a deal with Brian Cashman for a player other than Bruce or Lucas Duda.
But in privately saying the Yankees rejected Walker for medical reasons, even if the Mets didn’t believe that, the source did his own player a terrible disservice, calling attention to an issue that could have affected his trade value to other teams or his free-agent value.
As it turned out, Walker was dealt to the Brewers on Saturday for a player to be named later, but on Friday he was furious after hearing of the news leaking about the non-trade.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were astonished at the leak of such information and furious at the suggestion they were less than honest in the way they dealt with the Mets.
On Friday Cashman said he had “no comment” on any such insinuation, saying he never commented on trade talks about specific players, but sources in the organization made the point that the Yankee brass had concluded the deal for Gray before getting into last-minute discussions about Walker.
“Those talks (for Walker) didn’t happen until the last hour before the deadline,’’ a Yankee source said.
Another source was convincing in detailing the particulars of the Bruce discussions, saying “their baseball ops people wanted the players we offered,” to the point where the Yankees thought they had a deal when they agreed to take $1 million of the outfielder’s remaining money.
Apparently the Indians then agreed to take the entire contract, and the Mets terminated discussions with the Yankees.
“That’s business,’’ a Yankee source said. “But why the rest of this stuff?”
Good question. At least one Mets’ person admitted to being frustrated that no team was willing to offer the value they expected in return for Bruce, including the team across town.
“Frankly,” the Mets’ person said, “I don’t understand why the Yankees weren’t more motivated to get him.”
Frustrated or not, the Mets shouldn’t have responded the way they did, even anonymously, in what seemed to be an attempt to dodge criticism of the deal.
After all, they had to know at least some of their fans were going to be outraged at the perception that it’s always about the money with Mets’ ownership.
So again, what they ought to be doing is selling the idea that they’re loading up for a big off-season. In addition to what they’ve saved in trades for Bruce, Addison Reed, and Duda, as well as the $65 million coming off the books, the Mets have recouped between 50 to 75 percent of David Wright’s $20 million salary this season via insurance.
Even if Amed Rosario and Smith prove ready to take over shortstop and first base, respectively, there are going to be holes to fill. The Mets like what they’ve seen from Michael Conforto in center field, which could give them the freedom to pursue a corner outfielder.
They could re-sign Bruce or, better yet, go get J.D. Martinez.
In addition, Mike Moustakas will be a tantalizing option at third base. If the Mets really want to load up in the bullpen, they could sign Wade Davis, knowing Jeurys Familia is a free agent after next season.
They should even look into acquiring a veteran starting pitcher, via trade or free agency, rather than simply hope for good health, and from a starting rotation whose depth is now in question.
That type of commitment to next season is what the Mets should be talking about these days. Enough with throwing snowballs at the Yankees.
Joe Girardi so rarely says a discouraging word about his players that his blunt criticism of Gary Sanchez’s defense last week couldn’t help but make you think he was frustrated with the young catcher’s work ethic, focus, effort, or all of the above.
GM Brian Cashman on Friday said that’s not the case.
“The effort’s there,’’ Cashman said. “He added 12 pounds of muscle and that might have hurt his flexibility, but that’s not lazy. He didn’t come back as a fat cat. The problem isn’t work ethic.
“At the end of the day, his framing is good, he throws runners out, and he has a good catcher’s ERA. So he’s good in a lot of aspects, but he’s had struggles with blocking balls. Some of his misses (passed balls), he said he was crossed up (expecting a different pitch), which makes it look horrible.
“He’s a young catcher who needs refinement. If the public perception is different, it’s wrong, but that’s no different than for a Greg Bird.
“People questioned his injury but we finally found the problem, he had surgery and he’ll come rolling out of bed and hitting, like he always did.”
AMED’S GOT GLOVE
Rosario looks as if he may need some time to adjust to major league pitching, even after his game-winning home run on Friday night, but his defense at shortstop has been as outstanding as advertised.
By my rough count he’s probably made a dozen plays already, most toward the hole, that wouldn’t have been made by Asdrubal Cabrera or Jose Reyes. And his diving play up the middle on a hard-hit ball against the Rangers, which he turned into a force out with a flip to Reyes at second, was the most obvious example of his outstanding range.
“He would have saved their pitchers a ton of runs if he’d been up earlier,’’ an NL scout said. “He was going to need time at this level as a hitter no matter when he came up, but they had such a need for defense at shortstop that it still puzzles me why they waited so long.”
CAPTAIN’S GOT IT
Congrats to Derek Jeter, new owner of the Marlins. When he started talking about wanting to be an owner someday, did anyone think he could make it happen this quickly? But we should know better by now. From his 3,000th hit landing in the left field bleachers to that game-winning single in his final home at-bat, with five championships along the way, his life has played out like a Disney movie.
Just wondering, though, to reference a famous story that involved Alex Rodriguez staying over at Jeter’s apartment in their early days in the big leagues, if The Captain now will get the MLB package at home and watch baseball on TV.